How Do I Get My Damage Deposit Back?

The landlord´s refusal to return the tenant´s damage deposit is the most common rental problem encountered by students.

Know the Law on Damage Deposits. According to §76-1416 of the Nebraska Residential Landlord Tenant Act, the landlord may use the damage deposit in only two circumstances: (1) to cover the cost of unpaid, past due rent the tenant owes, and (2) to cover the cost of repairing damages to the apartment caused by the tenant or his or her guests which exceeds normal wear and tear.

If you did not damage the apartment and rent is paid, the landlord is legally obligated to return the entire deposit. The Nebraska Residential Landlord Tenant Act does not specifically spell out what constitutes "normal wear and tear." However, you should not be made to assume the cost of general upkeep and capital improvements; repairs or tasks of this nature are the responsibility of the property owner.

Write a Demand Letter. If the landlord fails to return the deposit voluntarily, you must write a letter demanding the return of the deposit. The landlord has 14 days from the receipt of the demand letter to return the deposit or mail an itemized list of the damages and cost of repairs. Your demand letter must be dated and must tell the landlord the address where the deposit can be sent. Of course, you should keep a copy of your demand letter. (see Deposit Demand Letter).

Sue in Small Claims Court. If the landlord fails to respond to your demand letter within 14 days or you dispute the landlord´s claim of damages, you can sue in Small Claims Court or obtain an attorney (call SLS for representation) and ask the court to award you the deposit plus attorney´s fees. (See the Small Claims Court Section of the SLS Handbook.) The apartment inventory you filled out and the photographs you took when you moved in will be valuable tools in recovering your deposit. You can use this evidence in negotiating a settlement or in court.